RACE 3: SENTRY (#5)
Likely favorite Value Proposition disappointed as the lukewarm favorite when last seen in the Poker, finishing behind today’s rival Seismic Wave. This lightly-raced 4-year-old has a tendency to lug in during the stretch of his races, and that may have compromised him again last time. He is obviously good enough to beat a field like this if he behaves himself, and also possesses the tactical speed to avoid getting outrun in the early stages. He just doesn’t feel like the most reliable favorite at what figures to be a short price. Main rival Seismic Wave never was in position to make an impact in the Bernard Baruch, as he was reserved well behind a slow pace in a race that was won in gate-to-wire fashion. This ridgling did run much better two back in the Poker, when he made a premature mid-race move to reach contention before flattening out, and still finished ahead of today’s rival Value Proposition. He’s a viable alternative at slightly appealing odds, but he will, as ever, be at the mercy of the pace. If I’m going to bet a deep closer, I want to take a shot with Sentry at a much better price. He was facing claimers last time, but that was a pretty solid field for the level. This 6-year-old arguably ran the best race, making a fantastic late rush into a moderate pace. It’s a good sign that Shug McGaughey is now bumping him back up in class for his second start off the layoff. He was in the best form of his career when last seen at the end of 2019, and his return last time suggests that he’s continued that progression. I acknowledge that he looks like a little cheaper than some of these, but he’s heading in the right direction and will be a price.
RACE 7: ROSE FLOWER (#1)
A few runners in this field exit the Caress Stakes from earlier in the meet. Introduced figures to attract support based on her solid fourth-place finish in that race. However, she didn’t earn a particularly convincing speed figure for that effort, and she had a much better trip than some others, stalking a very moderate pace. I’d be more interested in Getmotherarose coming out of the Caress, as she was making up ground down towards the inside but got steadied in traffic once a hole closed up. Her overall form is a little inconsistent, but she’s had some excuses along the way and may be able to rebound here. My top pick is Rose Flower, who makes her second start of 2020 after fading in the late stages of the Intercontinental back in June. She was facing a very tough field that day, led by Chad Brown’s star filly Newspaperofrecord, who dominated on the front end over her preferred yielding going. Rose Flower showed uncharacteristic tactical speed in the early stages and had nothing left for the stretch drive as they all were strung out across the wire. I’m not going to hold that race against her and will instead judge her based on her 2019 form. She was unlucky not to win the Autumn Days last fall, as she got held up in traffic for much of the stretch drive, only to fly home for third once she finally found running room late. Her form may suggest that slightly longer distances are best for her, but I don’t mind her going the 5 1/2 furlongs, and Joel Rosario is a perfect fit for her. She appears to be training well for this return to the races.
RACE 8: MISCHIEF AFOOT (#1)
If Texas Swing has progressed at all since the spring, he’s supposed to beat this field. He won a fast maiden race in February and then was hardly disgraced behind Kentucky Derby-bound King Guillermo in a fast Tampa Bay Derby. It would stand to reason that a 3-year-old who made just three starts over the winter would still have upside as he returns in the summer. Yet I’m a little skeptical that we’re going to see such progression from this horse. His workouts leading up to this return have me a little concerned. He doesn’t appear to be particularly enthusiastic about his morning training and was undoubtedly outworked by his uncoupled stablemate One Eyed Jack in that most recent drill on August 20. To my eye, he’s not going about his business with the same ease or vigor as we saw prior to his races over the winter. He’ll be favored, but I have to take a shot against him at a short price. I suppose it might be tempting to upgrade One Eyed Jack if he is indeed outworking Texas Swing, but I find this horse tough to endorse based on his form. He looked like one with potential for Chad Brown last year, but was extremely disappointing in two starts for Pletcher last winter. The best alternative I can find is Mischief Afoot. This horse showed some promise as a 2-year-old, finishing a close third in a salty October maiden race at Belmont before tailing off a bit at Aqueduct. After getting a prep on turf in his 3-year-old debut, he stepped forward last time at Monmouth, earning a solid 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that two-turn victory. I’m not concerned about the slight stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles given that he’s a half-brother to 9-furlong specialist Grumps Little Tots. I expect another good effort with hot-riding Luis Saez aboard.